Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Carciofi That Blooms in the Spring! tra la!

We have come to the end of carciofi (artichoke) season here - it runs roughly from February to April - and markets are no longer displaying the trays of green spiked globes or tubs of trimmed Cynara thistles so dear to the hearts of Roman cooks and kitchens. Though its still possible to order them in restaurants - particularly in the Ghetto - like most things they taste better in season.  But I sometimes wonder if that isn't a matter of anticipation?  What we can't have tastes better when we finally can!

One of Peck's flavourful but expensive
Though I don't have quite the same passion for them as other people in my household I enjoy the odd Carciofi alla giudia.  And I am particularly enamoured of the carciofini in oil sold at Peck in Milano, tiny artichokes smaller than your thumb nail but intense with flavour.  However given the price for even a small jar they are a rare treat indeed.

So the season's over why the post?

It all has to do with a late morning coffee stop  in Ravenna yesterday!  It was time for that jolt of caffeine that makes tromping over cobblestones and wandering through museums just that much easier, so we stopped en route to the Arian Baptistery for a cappuccino and a machiato at the Cafe Byron - is there a place in Italy that madcap didn't go???  At a table in one corner sat an elderly lady who acknowledge our arrival, as is common here, with a nod and a buon giorno.  Though it seemed a bit early for pranzo a glass of red wine sat in front of her and she was delicately and methodically mopping up the sauce from the remains of a plate of pasta with a piece of bread.

As my cappucc was being steamed I noticed a bunch of flowers on the counter behind the bar - a pom-pom of bright purple spikes surrounded by ...  could it be?  Artichoke bracts?  "Yes," said the charming lady behind the bar, "they are artichokes, and aren't they lovely?"  I was astounded - I'd never seen an artichoke flower or for that matter ever really thought that an artichoke did flower.  But of course it does - its a type of thistle and thistles flower.  "And smell them," she said, "they have a lovely perfume."  And indeed they did with just a touch of exotic spiciness.  She added that they were a present from the Signora, nodding towards the elderly diner.

When I expressed my admiration to the Signora she beamed and said that she had picked them herself earlier in the morning from her garden.  Her smile got even broader when I asked permission to take a photograph for the internet.  "Flowers from her garden?  On the internet?"  She would be honoured but she was also amused that I had never seen an artichoke blossom before.  Fortunately I was able to make a little joke and said "Ah Signora I'm always in a hurry to eat them."

Wouldn't you know it!  I can finally make a joke in Italian just when it comes time to leave.

26 giugno - San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

I didn't know artichokes are members of the thistle family either. But that is undeniably a thistle bloom! And look at you, charming the ladies young and old!

yvette said...

Exquite 'azul' very special, beautiful in dry bouquets!